Jim Underwood – President CCLF

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder…
or Will It Be Christmas in July?

With thirty-three years of Coast Guard service, I’ve had my share of missing out and know well the ache that comes from longing for a loved one’s embrace – from birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, the achievements of my wife and daughter, our families and close friends as well as just the everyday banalities of life. My longest deployments were just shy of five months—two voyages to Antarctica on an icebreaker stationed in Long Beach, CA. I remember how much I missed everything and everyone, particularly since “At-Sea Comms” in 1972 were not at all what they are today. No internet, no email, no cellphones, international phone rates were prohibitive and staying connected to life at home while underway was restricted to a total of seven mail calls in Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand, Antarctica, Chile, Peru and Mexico. As the Communications Officer on board, I remember feeling like Santa Clause when the mail came – much like the courtroom scene from The Miracle on 34th Street when the letters to Santa Clause were delivered. And it felt like Christmas, too, as my shipmates and I devoured the letters handwritten in cursive and numbered. We found comfort in the packages containing memories of home.

Fast forward to present day, and I’m now ashore with all the technology one can imagine. Yet as “keeper” of our Cape Canaveral Lighthouse family, I feel that old sense of longing has returned as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to quarantine us all from “normal” life. Celebrations and community events are being postponed or cancelled, while future plans seem indefinitely on hold: our Annual Membership and Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon; Descendants Day Celebration; Lighthouse Foundation’s “Under the Stars” Foundation Gala; a new Sunset with the Lighthouse from Sea…the list seems end-less. Even our Half Marathon/10K, now scheduled as a 10 Miler/10K for November 8, 2020, may be postponed as a result of the virus and the planning for our Annual Sponsors Appreciation Event has yet to begin. I miss these events, but mostly I miss the people who come to them, and the fun interactions we have!

Speaking on behalf of the Board and volunteers, we miss all our lighthouse visitors – but I assure you, we remain vigilant as our work behind the scenes continues. The restoration painting of the lighthouse exterior is complete, new bricks have been engraved and placed, new displays have been completed in the museum and lighthouse. Rocking chairs and benches have been ordered—there are a few left for purchase as a donation to the Foundation. Our website facelift is almost ready for public viewing, and our Keeper’s Closet Gift Shop continues to amaze with new and desirable items—ready for your return possibly as early as this month. Now, that would be a Christmas in July!

During the long Antarctic voyages, our log entries were for the most part routine: “Underway as before.” They never described the sheer beauty and expanse of the ocean, the vastness of the blanket of stars wrapping you in the night sky, nor the peace which accompanied the endless silence of Antarctica. And yet, “Underway as before” somehow still captures it all. Until we are together again…

Keep safe, keep shinning!


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